Ross, Skye & Lochaber

2015 Result:
Conservative: 2598 (6.2%)
Labour: 2043 (4.9%)
Lib Dem: 14995 (35.9%)
SNP: 20119 (48.1%)
Green: 1051 (2.5%)
UKIP: 814 (1.9%)
Independent: 191 (0.5%)
MAJORITY: 5124 (12.3%)

Category: Semi-marginal SNP seat

Geography: Scotland, Highlands and Islands. Part of the Highlands council area.

Main population centres: Dingwall, Fort William, Portree, Muir of Ord, Beauly, Gairloch, Ullapool.

Profile: An immense rural seat stretching across much of the Scottish Highlands and including the Isle of Skye and the northern part of the inner hebrides, this is geographically the largest seat in the UK, but one of the smallest in terms of electorate. Most of the seat is extremely remote and sparsely populated, crofting, farming, fishing, quarrying and forestry are important industries alongside tourism. The seat includes Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK.

Politics: This was previously a safe seat for the Liberal Democrats, or at least for Charlie Kennedy, the former Liberal Democrat leader. Kennedy won the seat in 1983, the only gain for the SDP in that election, and held it securely under 2015 when he was ousted in the SNP landslide.

Current MP
IAN BLACKFORD (SNP) Former investment banker. Contested Paisley 1997 by-election, Ayr 1997. First elected as MP for Ross, Skye & Lochaber in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 4260 (12%)
Lab: 5265 (15%)
LDem: 18335 (53%)
SNP: 5263 (15%)
Oth: 1715 (5%)
MAJ: 13070 (38%)
Con: 3275 (10%)
Lab: 4851 (15%)
LDem: 19100 (59%)
SNP: 3119 (10%)
Oth: 2193 (7%)
MAJ: 14249 (44%)
Con: 3096 (9%)
Lab: 5880 (17%)
LDem: 18832 (54%)
SNP: 4901 (14%)
Oth: 2103 (6%)
MAJ: 12952 (37%)
Con: 4368 (11%)
Lab: 11453 (29%)
LDem: 15472 (39%)
SNP: 7821 (20%)
Oth: 841 (2%)
MAJ: 4019 (10%)

2015 Candidates
LINDSAY MCCALLUM (Conservative) Educated at Fortrose Academy and Glasgow University. Chief of Staff to Ruth Davidson.
CHRIS CONNIFF (Labour) Contested Ross, Skye and Lochaber 2005.
CHARLES KENNEDY (Liberal Democrat) Born 1959, Inverness. Educated at Lochaber High School and Glasgow University. BBC journalist. MP for Ross, Cromarty and Skye 1983 to 2015. President of the Liberal Democrats 1990-1994, Leader of the Liberal Democrats 1999-2006. Kennedy was the youngest MP in the Commons when first elected for the SDP in 1983. He was elected Leader of the party in 1999 and was a highly popular and recognisable leader, although occassionally criticised as "chatshow Charlie" for appearing on programmes like Have I Got News For You. He lead the Liberal Democrat opposition to the Iraq War and saw them win a record number of seats - however, it was felt he had done fulfilled the party's potention and he increasingly came under attack for weak leadership, which was connected to rumours of a drink problem. In 2006 Kennedy announced he was seeking professional help for alcoholism and would hold and contest a leadership election. He stepped down from the leadership following a threat of mass-resignations by the Liberal Democrat frontbench.
PHILIP ANDERSON (UKIP) Farmer. Contested Ross, Skye and Inverness West 2001, Ross, Skye and Lochaber 2005, 2010.
ANNE THOMAS (Green) Born Bath. Speech and language therapist.
IAN BLACKFORD (SNP) Former investment banker. Contested Paisley 1997 by-election, Ayr 1997.
Comments - 529 Responses on “Ross, Skye & Lochaber”
  1. RIP Charles Kennedy.

    He was one of those politicians who everybody could tell was in it for all the right reasons. His biggest legacy will no doubtably be leading the opposition to the Iraq war, and although I never agreed with him on Iraq, I always respected him for the way he stood up for what he believed in. And let’s not forget that under his leadership the Lib Dems won more seats than at any time since the 1920’s. It’s such a shame that his drink problem brought his career to an early end when he’d achieved so much for his party.

  2. Kennedy was one of my favourite politicians. Even as a Lab voter in Jeremy Corbyn’s patch, I still admired him and would have liked to have met him. I think he got handed a rough deal with the loss of his father and his job. He was principled and strong. He was a good man who could have helped the LDs in the next five years. It really saddens me that he has passed on. I ‘ll never forget his performances on HIGNFY. @MRNAMELESS im your age and I think it important our generation not forget politicians like Kennedy.

  3. Very sad this morning on hearing the death of Charles Kennedy. He was a great political figure and a man clearly of principle; as has been pointed out his opposition to the Iraq war was not opportunistic, the war was popular when he decided to stand against it. As someone who never voted Lib Dem I still respected and admired him and I was saddened when he lost his seat.

    I must say I think Alec Salmond trying to make out he was a secret Nationalist is pathetic. My impression is that his heart was definitely in the campaign for a no vote. To suggest otherwise is ridiculous! Does this man (Salmond) have no shame!!!???

  4. Let us not pretend that opposing the Iraq War was a populist mood – when the Lib Dems came out against it, it was an unpopular position.

    RIP to Charles, a great loss, especially at such a young age.

  5. @JR

    Agreed. My recollection was that the polling pre-invasion – in UK as well as US – supported invading Iraq / removing Saddam. Kennedy was risking a lot of opprobrium from the right-wing press, which was aggressively in favour (particularly the Murdoch papers). Now you might dismiss this by saying not many Lib Dems read the Sun or whatever, but the support levels they were reaching (~23% in 2005) indicates that they must have had some support from Sun readers.

    You also had the (relatively brief) period post-invasion where it looked like things had gone well. It was only apparent after about 6 months (particularly after the attack on the UN compound in Baghdad) that it was a mess. Again, Kennedy was risking sounding like a chicken little (“sky is falling”) by continuing to oppose government policy.

    There’s quite a good YouGov article (dated 21 May) about US polling on Iraq illustrating how people mis-remember their position on Iraq. i.e. a lot less think they supported it (~38%) than actually did (~67%).

    As for Kennedy, he attracted my support in 2005. It’s very sad what’s happened to him and the party he helped build.

  6. Today is just not the day to debate or spin the minutiae of Kennedy’s position on the geopolitical makeup of this island and try to apply a label.

    I hope the details remain private though fear they won’t. Either way, I’ll remember him for his pre-2010 self – a charismatic conviction politician. Professionally, in his final few years he was clearly disillusioned at the prospect of choosing between hurting his party or being quiet about the dangers of a journey he – and he alone among LD MPs – had always been against.

  7. “I hope today that those who criticised him for his brave stand at that time are hanging their heads in shame.”

    Why should we? I respect him for standing by his convictions then, before this positiion had majority support (although this position did already attract higher support at that time than Lib Dems did) and I still stand by mine although it is unfashionable to do so, that the Iraq war was right.

    There was probably not much I would agree with CK on politically, but that doesn’t stop me respecting a very able political talent and feeling sad for his family, especially his young son.

    The nice thing is, we’re allowed to have different opinions in this country without locking each other up, or worse, over it.

  8. Opposing the Iraq war was clever short-term politics – it inflamed the quite deep divisions within Labour and attracted a whole new breed of left wing voters to the Lib Dems.

    But of course ultimately this was a big mistake strategically. It made the Lib Dem coalition of voters, always an unwieldy one, even more subject to ‘ideological overstretch’.

    The image problem this gave the Lib Dems among more centrist voters already had a negative impact on their vote at the 2010 election – a lot of middle of the road voters were uncomfortable supporting a party that shared platforms with far-left characters.

    And the full effects of this error have now been clearly seen – in the slump in polling once the Lib Dems entered coalition and their recent decimation at the general election. In the end, the Lib Dems lost both the left and the centre…

  9. Whatever you think of the LD stance on Iraq, it wasn’t knee-jerk populism. Paddy Ashdown was pretty much saying that there shouldn’t be military action in Afghanistan in the week after 9/11.

    By comparison being anti-Iraq in 2003 was about as controversial as being against nuking Liechtenstein.

  10. Given that some on the right (UKIP’s position for instance) opposed Iraq, it’s one of those issues that shouldn’t be classified as left or right. Foreign policy probably divides the right based on more isolated/traditional conservativism with neoconservativism.

    Indeed they oppose for different reasons to the left (read just about anything by Peter Hitchens), it’s just that they go about their opposition in different ways and aren’t obnoxious like groups such as Stop the War Coalition.

  11. Runnymede.

    1. Your analysis is nonsensical – the Lib Dems slightly increased their popular support in 2010. Their demise was due to entering the 2005 and 2010 elections as a centre-left party and then entering full coalition with the main centre-right party. Simple as.

    2. I don’t think Kennedy chose to oppose Iraq for reasons purely of political positioning.

  12. Well we can get a good idea of how principled opposition to the Iraq war was among the Lib Dems by the fact that they were perfectly happy to go along with the NATO bombing of Serbia a few years earlier, also not mandated by the UN.

    There were a variety of reasons for opposing the second Iraq war – ideological, practical and opportunistic. The Lib Dems mostly were in the latter camp.

    But by associating themselves with Stop The War and other assorted Trots they certainly damaged their prospects in Lib Dem/Tory seats.

  13. So damaging that they had a net loss of 1 seat to the Tories in 2005 (3 gains, 4 losses).,_2005#MPs_who_lost_their_seats

  14. Runnymede – public opinion was pro-war both before the war and in it’s earlier stages. This is a fact, it is not up for debate. There is little ‘opportunistic’ about backing an unpopular cause.

    Anyhow, we know you want to attack the Lib Dems, but this is neither the time nor place.

    R.I.P. Charles Kennedy

  15. I liked Kennedy (in fact I’ve said so multiple times on this thread). I do however agree with Runnymede that he made a huge long term strategic error in leading his party up a left wing blind alley.

    Also interesting to see “ChrisHornet” on here….after his 100 pages of crap on the Watford thread you might have expected some apology to those who he castigated for daring to suggest Dorothy Thornhill wouldn’t win by a landslide…

  16. That’s not what Chris conveyed on the Watford thread. I thought he was open about her prospects, and nobody predicted a landslide there.

    Like a few of the rest of us, he genuinely thought that LD s had a chance there though – and the ultimate result was no more out of kilter than other predictions of LD holds from people like you, in seats they then lost by 20%.

    I thought you were the main one to post crap and castigate people at random, and not apologise for it HH.

  17. I came back the day after the election and admitted where I was wrong, even to major league assholes like you. He hasn’t said a word.

  18. Nor did he slag other people off like you did / do. A world of difference.

  19. A world of difference from you as well.

    BT = Banal Twat

  20. I suggest you re-read what he wrote on the Watford thread HH.

  21. I can’t find any comments on the Watford thread by Chris Hornet posted after the result was known.

  22. HH. It is BAD forum etiquette to name call other contributors on this forum.

    I hope that someone deletes your obnoxious comments.

  23. Andy JS – I was referring to his contributions on the likely result:

    HH wrote that he:
    ‘castigated [other contributors] for daring to suggest Dorothy Thornhill wouldn’t win by a landslide’

    To my recollection he was fairly sceptical that Thornhill would win.

  24. I agree with Runnymede’s first 2 paras, but not the rest, as I think Kennedy’s stance was honourable (although I disagreed with it). That doesn’t mean the LDs were as a Party and many used Iraq as a way of hoovering up the Muslim vote in local elections etc from 2003 onwards.

    I don’t think it’s disrespectful to say he died of alcoholism. It’s good to hear that Alistair Campbell and Andrew Neil kept in touch with him and texted him until 2 days ago. I note his own Party’s leader and other former leaders did not.

    He was principled and a normal bloke. I only met him once at the LibDem Conf in Liverpool and he stood apart from the sanctimonious Paddy et al. I also recall Team Ming leaked the story of his alcoholism in 2006.

  25. Why have some people on this site become so unpleasant after the election? There’s no need for people to snipe or be unpleasant about the fact that people were wrong about things – indeed I’d suggest the only people who really called the election right were generally pro-Tory rampers who did so wholly by accident.

    It’s no surprise, I think, that I’m extremely saddened by the loss of Charles Kennedy – one of the Lib Dems probably closest to my own views, who managed to combine a very genuinely liberal policy portfolio with electoral success. The assertion that this was a blind alley, given the recent stark electoral comparison between it and a more nebulously centrist stance, seems to me to be absurdly unfounded.

    This loss, I think, could hardly come at a worse time for people like myself. Given the already weak state of social liberalism in Britain’s politics we can ill afford the loss of one of our best known and best loved voices.

  26. I imagine the press, if it feels so inclined, could write up some deeply unflattering portraits of Kennedy’s colleagues relating to the period shortly before his departure as leader and the years following.

    The Lib Dems will be hoping that their collapse into electoral oblivion may spare them that attention.

  27. The press could write up some deeply unflattering portraits of most people in politics if they were so inclined. In any case, as you point out, most relevant people are now firmly out of the political picture, so unless they could implicate one of the leadership contenders (which is unlikely) it wouldn’t be a terribly relevant story to run.

  28. Why aren’t posters like H Hemmelig put on moderaton / banned these days? Is Anthony too busy/

  29. FE – yes, far too busy. Moderating a forum like this ideally needs at least one moderator on at all times. To moderate it properly AW would need to get volunteer mods, which UKPR has never had, and which could be a risk as you’d need to guard against politicised moderation somehow (I wouldn’t even be confident of my own ability to be 100% removed from my own views as a mod on a site this political, and I’ve been running and moderating other web forums for years).

  30. Ah yes, the press. That bastion of moralty.

    What’s the biggest media-related difference between the 21st century Lib Dems and the party that governed Germany in the 30s and early 40s?

    The latter party had the support of the Daily Mail at one point before its demise.

  31. I agree that H Hemmelig should have several of his posts above from earlier today DELETED.

    Who agrees with that proposition?

  32. Not me

  33. ‘I liked Kennedy (in fact I’ve said so multiple times on this thread). I do however agree with Runnymede that he made a huge long term strategic error in leading his party up a left wing blind alley’

    I don’t see how that can be true given how well the Lib Dems did in 2001 and 2005 under Kennedy’s leadership

    As soon as they moved to the Right under Clegg they firstly lost seats and then almost got wiped out

    Personally I preferred Clegg’s approach to Kennedy’s – but the electorate seemed to disagree

    As for his passing, it’s truly sad given his relatively young age and as one of a handful of genuinely likeable politicians over the past few decades.

    As they say, the good die young

  34. Tributes to Charles Kennedy now on TV Parliament Channel.


  35. We will all want to express our sympathy and condolences to Charles Kennedy’s relations and many friends following his sad and untimely death.

    I hope it is not too soon, however, to point out that Charles Kennedy is only the latest of many MPs who have suffered grievous alcohol problems because of the appalling working conditions and practices of the House of Commons.

    I have for some time now advocated that replacement of the present Houses of Parliament by a much smaller chamber on a greenfield site, perhaps in BIrmingham near the HS2 station about to be built, dealing with strategic national affairs such as defence and foreign affairs. All other matters would be delegated to regional assemblies with the same powers as the Scottish Parliament. Adequate office facilities and a seat in the relevant chamber would be provided for every MP. Few of our representatives in this new system would have to stay away from home, and with a better spread of powers politicians could work normal days.

    The current Palace of Westminster would be opened to visitors as a tourist attraction, if their entrance fees could cover the maintenance costs, including the current repairs backlog.

    Cameron has been resistant to such change, but after yet another tragedy the current situation is quite intolerant and must be changed at the earliest opportunity.

  36. Typo: for intolerant read intolerable.

  37. I must say the way the BBC juxtaposed the tributes to Kennedy from the HoC with various gaunt and haunted-looking still pictures of Kennedy was quite charming.

  38. The tributes in the HoC are even more gut-wrenching and hypocritical than normal, given that they are clearly being used by Labour politicians (Harman, Campbell, Prescott etc) to make light of their disastrous personal misjudgements over Iraq, which cost many lives and helped create the towering deficits we are still unable to pay off.

    Yet another example of Labour’s flawed election strategy, to paraphrase Dan Hodges, of saying “vote for us because we admit we fucked up big time last time we were in power”.

  39. H.H:

    I don’t mind the odd bit of partisanship on here, but your last comment is pretty low and pathetic.

    I liked Kennedy, and voted libdem throughout his time as leader. I was disappointed that he didn’t stand up to his party over the NHS reforms, but perhaps he was struggling personally at the time. It made me wonder what Uk politics would have looked like if he hadn’t had a drink problem; A C&S agreement in 2010 instead of coalition, leaving the tories in trouble during omnishambles & “the flatline kid”. I suspect we’d have had a lab/libdem coalition in maybe 2012, electoral reform and, who knows….Charles Kennedy PM in 2017!

    A good & honest politician,who did some good things and who might have really changed things, if life had turned out different.

  40. A C&S agreement in 2010 instead of coalition, leaving the tories in trouble during omnishambles & “the flatline kid”. I suspect we’d have had a lab/libdem coalition in maybe 2012, electoral reform and, who knows….Charles Kennedy PM in 2017!

    The coalition was the gift that kept giving for the tories, as evinced by the fact the blues won 27 seats off the liberals, which secured them the majority. a tory majority would have been impossible if the liberals had been more resilient incumbents.

    Once again, Kennedy’s judgement was right. The party would have been in a much stronger place had they refused to enter a formal coalition agreement. He was a canny and prudent man in his professional life. It’s just a shame about his drink problem.

  41. Alistair Campbell said that Charles Kennedy had wanted to talk to him about the creation of a left of centre Scottish unionist party that would unite all left of centre unionist Scots.

    The problem for the Scottish unionists is that right of centre Scottish unionists would not vote for a left of centre unionist party (or vice versa). I wonder of there was a DUP/ OUP styled pact between a left of centre Scottish unionist party and a right of centre unionist party. Would each others supporters back their diametrically opposed unionist opponents where a pact to be agreed?

  42. Labour voters aren’t going to vote Tory en masse in a Tory/SNP fight, especially if the SNP are likely to support a future Labour Government, while the Tory candidate obviously would not. In many ways, it’s a shame for the Lib Dems that they are so weak right now, as they could have ended up as the consensus unionist option in many of the more affluent parts of Scotland. They do seem to be the only party that managed to generate substantial unionist tactical voting.

  43. I don’t think the conditions for the kind of monolithic cross-class unionism we see in NI exist in Scotland. In particular, the ethnic dimension is missing. Also an important difference with Quebec…and arguably Wales.

  44. Runnymede

    I’m not sure ethnic is the word you’re after here. Surely “religious” and “linguistic” are more correct in the two examples you cited.

    I think you’re correct, though, in your assertion that cross-segment unionism doesn’t fit the Scottish context. In fact, I would argue that a dualist antagonism based on a purely constitutional basis is quite a rare occurrence.

  45. The NI divide isn’t really about religion, it’s about national identification which (largely) coincides with religion.

    for dualist antagonism based on a purely constitutional basis…there are perhaps some notable examples e.g. USA 1861-65, but Scotland is not there yet

  46. You’re right. It would be more correct to state it as a national identification/religious dimension, and for the Welsh/Quebec example to be described as linguistic/cultural.

  47. With Wales there are two levels – the linguistic divide among the ‘native’ Welsh and also the presence of a large minority of English-born people.

    There is a little bit of the latter element in parts of southern Scotland but it’s not as significant.

  48. Yet another cybernat brings disgrace on their party.

  49. Galloglass,

    Well I for one am glad to see anyone who makes nasty personal insults about an opponent step down.

    The problem with social media and blogs is that it is all to easy for people to vent their spleens particularly when they have the protection on anonymity.

    The best protection I know for that is do do what I do, don’t post anything you wouldn’t say publicly and always post using your real name.

    Most of the arguments on here about inappropriate behaviour could be avoided if people were a little more civil and those that weren’t couldn’t hide behind pseudonyms,


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